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Headteacher warns pupils could be expelled if they go on holiday in term time

A headteacher has sent a newsletter to parents warning pupils who go on holiday during term time could be expelled.

Parents of children at Fleetdown Primary School in Dartford, Kent were sent a newsletter in which the headteacher, Angela Konarzewski, said that pupils who go away on holidays during the term may be in danger of losing their place at the school.

Fleetdown Primary was determined “outstanding” by Ofsted in 2014. The inspectors noted the high level of attendance as a factor.

An increasing number of families have been taking their children on holidays while they should be in school, the newsletter said. Therefore the school “may offer the places of pupils away on holiday to the next child on the waiting list for their year group.”

If the place has been filled by the time the child returns then then their position at the school will be “renegotiated” in an interview with the headteacher and a panel of governors.

“We want parents and pupils at Fleetdown who follow the school’s rules”, the letter said.

The announcement from the headteacher and board of governors has been discussed by parents on Facebook who have said that money is the main reason why children are taken away during the term time.

As parents can’t afford school holiday rates, commenters said that the school was therefore penalising certain children for being poor.

“Our poorest children, our disadvantaged children don’t go away on holiday during term time and probably don’t go away abroad on holiday during school holidays either”, Mrs Konarzewski told ITV News.

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“We’re not talking about the poorest children here – we’re talking about parents who can afford to take their children abroad.”

“They are penalising their own children by forcing them to miss the education they would otherwise be receiving in school.”

One Facebook commenter, Kim Harris, said “travelling can be educational too.” Mrs Konarzewski agreed but said that those trips need to happen during school holidays.

“We are warning parents that if they go away on holidays we could offer their places to children on the waiting list.”

Fleetdown Primary is the only outstanding school in the area and the waiting list has almost two children applying for every place.

On the school’s website it says that “where a child is missing from education, Local Authority guidance will be followed.” Kent County Council has said that to expel a child for going on holiday during term, a decision made by their parents, would be “unlawful”.

The council’s Education Director, Patrick Leeson said there was “no legal provision” for a school to remove a pupil for non-attendance as it “cannot be seen as persistent or serious breaches of a school’s behaviour policy,” he said.

“As it is a local authority school, Kent County Council will be instructing the governors to amend their relevant behavioural and absence policy to reflect current legislation.”

Mrs Konarzewski said that although under current legislation, the school cannot enforce an exclusion, it can offer an “absent” child’s place to a pupil on the waiting list.

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